Bahrain heads 2008 calendar – but how many races?

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Bahrain Grand Prix, start, 2006Bahrain has been confirmed as the first Grand Prix of 2008 as Formula One Group seeks to repeat last year’s ratings high.

A race at midday in Bahrain airs in the early evening in Europe – prime television time – unlike the Australian round which Europeans have to get up at around 3am to see. However next year’s Australian race will be moved back to 3.30pm local time (5.30am British time) to make it more accessible for European audiences.

Interestingly the Australian Grand Prix will keep a similar mid-March date to this year’s race – meaning the F1 season will start earlier in the year, which could mean there will be more races. But where else will F1 be visiting in 2008? France and the United States look set to lose their rounds.

French Grand Prix – on?

Despite making loud noises about F1 not returning to Magny-Cours in 2008, Bernie Ecclestone recently conceded that F1 may be back next year.

The French motor sport federation (FFSA) has a contract until 2011, but Ecclestone is keen to move the race away from dull, agricultural Nevers, to somewhere more lively.

United States Grand Prix – off

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Indianapolis, 2007, 4A race at Indianapolis next year looks to be out of the question, but the door is apparently open for future F1 races at the motor speedway.

The road course is to be reconfigured to accommodate next year’s Moto GP race, and if F1 were to return it is understood that it would run on that track.

But the Moto GP circuit obliterates the only section of track genuinely interesting for F1 cars – the long, flat-out blast through one of the oval’s turns that allows overtaking into the first corner. The resultant circuit looks to be deficient in both spectacular corners and overtaking opportunities – where the previous track at least had the latter, if not the former.

German Grand Prix – moving

The German Grand Prix will return next year, at the Hockenheimring, as the Nurburgring falls off the calendar for the first time since 1994 (to return in 2009). The two will continue to share the race but with four German drivers currently in the sport (not counting Markus Winkelhock and Sebastian Vettel) plus Mercedes, BMW and German-based Toyota, it may return to two races in the future.

European Grand Prix – also moving

The European Grand Prix will switch venues – to Valencia’s new street track. It is not yet known when that race will be, but expect it to be at the opposite end of the calendar to the Spanish Grand Prix which was the first European event this year.

Singaporean Grand Prix – new

An all-new event for 2008 will be a street race at Singapore, which is also expected to be F1’s first night races, again to better suit television times in Europe.

Japanese Grand Prix – shared?

Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka, start, 2006, 2Toyota’s Fuji Speedway will hold its first Japanese Grand Prix for 30 years in September. But at present it only has one-year deal. Honda is understood to want a Grand Prix at its Suzuka circuit which held F1 races from 1987-2006.

It has been suggested either that both could hold races next year, with the title of ‘Pacific Grand Prix’ last seen in 1995 being resurrected for one of them. Alternatively, they could share the Japanese event as the Hockenheimring and Nurburgring are presently doing with the German round. The latter option is understood to be considered more likely.

San Marino Grand Prix – back?

Hermann Tilke has worked over the Imola track, expanding the pit area and removing one of the chicanes to potentially improve overtaking.

With Ferrari still strong and F1 as popular as ever in Italy, a return to two races per year is not out of the question.

British Grand Prix – not safe

The weekend crowd of over 200,000 may have raised hopes over the future of the British Grand Prix. But even a capacity crowd every year cannot save a circuit that clearly needs investment.

The BRDC, led by Damon Hill, have spurned a number of potential investment plans, but they must find a solution soon. The popularity of Lewis Hamilton alone is not enough to protect the race. The contract expires in 2009, and the clock is ticking.

Potential 2008 F1 calendar

Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy, 2006A calendar of at least 17 races looks likely for next year. But if the French Grand Prix is confirmed, and Italy and Japan both get two races, a 20-race calendar might yet happen.

Bahrain will return to the role of season opener it had last year. But will some of the huge gaps in this year’s calendar be plugged by extra races? Might we finally see some regularity in the calendar? Here’s hoping…

1. Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit
2. Australian Grand Prix (March 14-16), Albert Park Melbourne
3. Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang International Circuit
?. San Marino Grand Prix, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari*
4. Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
5. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo (Street)
6. Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
?. French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours*
7. British Grand Prix, Silverstone
8. German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring
9. Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring
10. Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul Park
11. Italian Grand Prix, Autodromo Nazionale Monza
12. Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
13. European Grand Prix, Valencia (Street)
14. Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai International Circuit
15. Japanese Grand Prix, Fuji Speedway* or Suzuka*
16. Singaporean Grand Prix, Singapore (Street)
17. Brazilian Grand Prix, Aut????dromo Jos??? Carlos Pace, Interlagos

*Not confirmed

2009, 2010 and beyond

Abu Dhabi is set to join the calendar in 2010, followed by South Korea the year after that.

There have also been rumours that the Australian Grand Prix may move to Sydney, although not to the nearby Eastern Creek circuit.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “Bahrain heads 2008 calendar – but how many races?”

  1. I like that calendar – a lot! Any idea what month the Singapore GP will be held? I’m trying to save up money for it. :)

  2. Spain 2 Grand Prixs for the 1st time? Didnt they have 2 in 1997? Wasnt the European GP held at Jerez that year?

  3. Oops… fixed. That second race (in Jerez) was supposed to have been at Estoril, originally.

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